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The Waning of Democracy in Egypt - the Imprisonment of Sanaa Seif

Sanaa Seif, 22, today sits in an Egyptian prison near Cairo, sentenced to six months in jail for insulting a government employee. Her conviction and her sentence underscore more examples of attacks upon democracy, freedom and the rule of law in Abdel-Fattah el Sissi's Egypt.

Since the ouster in 2013 of the first democratically elected president of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi, and the subsequent outlawing of the Muslim Brotherhood, human rights in the home of the Pharaohs have taken a back seat to the undertakings of Sissi's administration as he asserted his control over the Egyptian people from the judiciary to the streets.

Some 40,000 people have been arrested on rights issues in Egypt since 2013. According to an Associated Press(AP) report earlier today, rights lawyer Nasser Amin has admitted: "The justice system has suffered a partial meltdown in the past 18 months." He added: " The Egyptian judicial system is carrying an unbearable load. It has become a partner in safeguarding security, not justice."

In protest of such a system, Sanaa Seif, 22, has been convicted. First summoned on accusations of inciting protest, Sanaa refused to answer the investigating judge's questions, the AP reported. She said the courts and prosecutors all follow the will of the government. The investigator did not charge her with incitement, instead he charged her with insulting a government employee while performing his duties. 

Sanaa was tried, convicted and sentenced to six months in jail. She refused to attend the trial and then refused to appeal the verdict. On May 14, she surrendered to Egyptian authorities. Before going to prison, she wrote on her Facebook page: "It's not an act of bravado. Being jailed in not easy and I know it."

This different style of protest by this courageous young woman demonstrates the deep feelings still harbored by lasting advocates of democracy in Egypt who once hoped for liberty in the 2011 uprising against  Hosni Mubarak and the democratic election of Morsi.

However, el-Sissi's tenure in Egypt has been characterized by mass trials and sentences of thousands of protesters. Last month alone, 152 protesters were convicted and sentenced to up to five-years-in-prison for participating in demonstrations against Sissi's decision to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. According to the AP, last week the sentences of 47 of them were overturned on appeal but they still face stiff fines of about $10,000 each.

Thus, the protest, trial, conviction and sentence of Sanaa Seif, 22, underscores that democracy is waning and under attack in Sissi's Egypt and that the stalwarts of liberty, equality and the rule of law, should pay closer attention before it is too late for Sanaa and for all of her Egyptian peers.